‘I fear we will do away with Shakespeare’: Pupils could stop studying ‘cultural icons’ as schools are forced to diversify curriculum, head warns
- Katherine Birbalsingh is headteacher at Michaela community school in London
- She stressed the importance of keeping ‘dead white men’ on the curriculum
- Shakesperean texts had been ‘lost’ across the US, she says UK may do the same
Britain’s ‘strictest headmistress’ fears pupils will stop studying William Shakespeare as schools are forced to diversify the curriculum.
Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher at Michaela community school in north London and the Government’s Social Mobility Commissioner, stressed the importance of keeping ‘dead white men’ on the curriculum as ‘black and female authors’ are added.
She explained Shakespearean texts had been ‘lost’ in many places in the US and warned the UK may follow suit.
Miss Birbalsingh told The Guardian: ‘I think that dead white men have something to offer us. Shakespeare has been influencing literature for over 400 years. It’s right to teach Shakespeare. The ideas in Shakespeare are universal. I’m worried about the trend in America that is now influencing what’s happening over here, where eventually we will do away with cultural icons like Shakespeare.’
She added that ‘any number’ of black and female authors could replace Shakespeare in schools.
Britain’s ‘strictest headmistress’ Katharine Birbalsingh (pictured at her school, Michaela Community School in Wembley Park) fears pupils will stop studying William Shakespeare as schools are forced to diversify the curriculum
‘Maybe they’ll have me in there. The point is I’m a black female author. I would never suggest reading my books instead of Shakespeare or Dickens or any number of other dead white men.
‘My colour and my gender should not be so important.’
GCSE pupils in England are still required to study Shakespeare, despite reading lists having been broadened to include more writers from minority backgrounds. Pupils entered for AQA GCSE English literature exams this summer are required to have studied Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, The Merchant Of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing or Julius Caesar.
The London headteacher, whose school has become famous for its strict ‘no excuses’ behaviour policy, also stressed she was not advocating against having black authors added to the curriculum but believed pupils should be taught to appreciate the all authors regardless of their ethnicity.
‘So I’m not saying only teach dead white men. I’m just saying don’t campaign to get rid of them,’ she said.
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